Thursday, my school experienced a real-life lockdown. Here’s how it happened:
Two guys tried to rob a house in the neighborhood and ran for it when the police were called. One of them was caught, but the other was not, and was seen running in the direction of the school. The person who they tried to rob was unsure if they had a weapon or not, so the school was put on lockout. This meant all the doors were locked and monitored to make sure no one on the outside would be coming in, and no one on the inside would be going out. The similarity of the terms lockdown and lockout did confuse me at first and I had my students in the corner with the lights off. I could hear the rooms adjacent to mine still making normal classroom noise and realized we had done the wrong one (but better that than the other way around). I called the room across the hall to double check and let the students out of the corner and turned the lights back on. At this point, the assistant principal over the 9th grade came in and informed me I would be assigned a post at the outside door next to my classroom in a lockout (we were slated to have a meeting on lockout duties Friday afternoon), so she took my students to a neighboring class and I went to keep watch over my door after being informed of the description of the person in question. In the hallway I heard the walkie-talkies going crazy as someone was pretty sure they had seen the person, but no one was sure when it had been. It was then that I heard them call for the full lockdown. My heart was racing. This thing that most teachers will never have to experience was happening right now, in my second semester teaching on my own.
The assistant principal let me in to the teacher’s room where my students were after announcing her and my entry. We holed up there for at least 2 hours. She had already gotten the students down behind furniture and into corners, but they were experiencing the giggles either from immaturity in dealing with fear, or because they didn’t think it was for real. There was even one student who was refusing to get on the floor and complaining loudly about having to get under a desk! After we took care of her, I went around to each group as quietly as I could to let them know it was definitely for real that I had been in the hallway and received a description of a person to look for, thinking that my movements around the room were worth getting the students quiet. It worked well enough. While the others were all hidden, I took up post behind the door as unofficially suggested by one of the assistant principals in an earlier meeting, grabbed the best prospect I could find (a 3-hole punch), and waited to try and hit the intruder over the wrist just as the SRO had instructed me. And as I stood there in the dark behind the door wielding a hole punch, I thought a lot about the recent talk regarding putting guns in teachers’ hands (and I’m still against it. More on that later.), and I thought a lot about my family. There was so much unknown about those 2 hours; it was very scary. I even contemplated writing a note to my wife on my arm in permanent marker because there was a point I had decided I wasn’t going home. My biggest comfort was that I was right next to the door and could hear what the administrators and police were saying in the hallway. For some reason, being even a little informed is comforting.
About an hour and a half into the lockdown, I heard a group of people outside the door and a set of keys go to open the door. We were told that anyone who needed in during a lockdown would have a key, but I can never get the thought of the intruder taking somebody’s keys out of my mind, so I decided to wait until I saw the person, but not put the hole punch down. It was the principal and 3 police officers. They were searching every room in the building to make sure the robber had not taken up shelter in the school, because the police had not found him yet. They left, and we remained in lockdown for about 30 more minutes before they came to let us out.
Being not even a month from Sandy Hook, and starting high school in the wake of Columbine, it was easy for me to go to worst-case scenarios in the dark silence of that classroom, but thankfully, the precautions worked and everyone was kept safe.